Hailey has suffered from night terrors since she was about two, and although they don’t happen frequently, they are scary and usually a sign that she is overtired or anxious about something. So whether it helps or not, my habit has been to remind her, right before she closes her eyes, to think of something beautiful before she drifts off. Occasionally, she’ll tell me of her pre-slumber thoughts — bunnies, kittens, the beach, swimming, Minnie Mouse, her Papa — but mostly she’ll just smile peacefully and roll over, and I say a silent prayer that nothing frightens her awake. Night terrors are unnerving for all involved — picture sleepwalking without the walking. The child seems awake, is often crying or screaming, sometimes is even having a full on conversation, is frightened, but is definitely not awake and will not wake if you try. Hailey’s night terrors have clustered around stressful events — moves, starting school, or changes in bedtime routines or mom or dad’s work schedules — but, thankfully, she’s having far fewer the older she gets.
Last night, though, we worried that they had returned. She had been asleep for a couple of hours and Josh and I were watching a movie in our room when we heard her talking really loudly. Wait, not talking, laughing. Hysterically. Cracking up, in fact. Was she asleep or did she sneak the iPad into her room and turn on something incredibly funny? We tiptoed into her room and found her sitting up in her bed, giggling with such pure happiness that Josh and I started laughing too. We inched closer to see if she was awake or asleep, and looking into her eyes we could tell she was still asleep (when she has a night terror her eyes are open as well, and she appears awake but dilated pupils give an unmistakable “lights are on but nobody’s home” look).
“Why are you laughing, silly?” Josh asked.
“Because of all the love,” she said.
Then she threw her legs in the air and giggled some more, finally settling back onto her pillow, all the while laughing and laughing, then closing her eyes and drifting back off with the hugest smile on her face.
We sat on her bed digesting that moment for about 20 minutes.
“That just made my whole world,” Josh said.
I just put my hand over my mouth and silently wept with pure joy.
I cried because it wasn’t terror that woke my daughter this time, it was happiness.
I cried because she was filled with such raw bliss on an unconscious level.
I cried because my daughter felt so loved and so much love.
I cried because all the love made her giddy.
I cried because, sitting in her dimly lit room, all pinks and purples, I had no worries or anxieties for the first time in years.
I cried because my daughter is fundamentally happy.
I cried because, someday, not long from now, the world will start to chip away at that fundamental happiness.
I cried because I so desperately want her to hold on to that joy for as long as possible.
I cried because of all the love.